Trust in His timing

God often uses the experiences in our lives to teach us lessons.  The answers to our prayers, the yeses, nos, wait and see all can be used to help us grow. I think God is often trying to teach me patience and trust in His plan. I've chosen a career where the payout is long term, because I will literally be in school forever, so I have to trust that each step of the way is contributing to the long term goal of my vocation. I've seen countless friends enter into relationships and get married, and while that area of my life is still in writing, I've learned patience and trust in God's long term plan (still working on that one), and I've seen how the opportunities in my life and where God is calling me to serve may not have been possible if I were walking a different path.

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Life Lately: March

Since I last posted, I went on Spring break for a week, saw Beauty and the Beast, took a policy and advocacy trip to Tallahassee (Florida state capital), celebrated my 27th birthday, went to Disney, had a few major assignments/presentations due, and watched the Tarheels win the National Championship. March (and the first week of April) was a whirlwind.

Here's a little photo rundown:

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Why I Run

This morning I did something I never thought I would be able to do: I ran 5 miles.

When I say that I have never been a runner, I mean that I was never I runner. I DREADED the timed mile run days in gym during elementary and middle school.

I loved soccer when I was little, but I tended to play defense because I couldn't deal with running the length of the field. Granted, I had sports-induced asthma and chronic allergies as a kid, which made sustained cardio difficult at time. I was active through dance, but never got into running.

In college and post-college, I danced and exercised sporadically but nothing consistent. Trying to go on a run would just bring dread and pain, and I never really knew what I was doing. I really never learned to "run" properly, and I would just start, regardless of form or pacing. I was also very self-conscious about running. I ran slowly and I was very aware of all the other more fit and better runners around me, especially when running around a college campus.

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Why I haven't blogged as often

As I've mention recently, I've been getting more into the work of author and researcher Dr. Brene Brown. She focuses a lot of her work on the most core and essential human emotions and experiences, and how they can sometimes be flip sides of the same coin: shame, love, joy, worry, etc. They all come down in core (or at least how I interpret them) to vulnerability. In reading one of her books about whole-hearted living, The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, I began thinking of my own struggles with perfection, and owning "being smart" as a core personality trait. I'll go into more on that later, but through that experience I realized that I don't think my blog or what I have to say is ever "good enough" so why bother posting it. But let's be real, this is a creative outlet and nothing more. I'm not a "blogger", I'm not trying to make money or have pictures that look perfect. I just like sharing my thoughts, my experiences and some creative ideas I may have from time to time. I'm in no way shape or form a theologian or even remotely experienced in working in ministry. I'm a Catholic girl in her mid-twenties in graduate school, and this is just my life right now and what I'm thinking and experiencing.

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Disney Crazed

I'm not going to lie, one perk of choosing a graduate school program in Florida is the proximity to Orlando, specifically Disney World. I grew up in the Golden Age of Disney Animation, watching and listening to the soundtracks of Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Pocahontas and Little Mermaid.  I still remember details from our first Disney trip when I was in Kindergarten, like my Ariel doll that say next to me and Grandmom on the monorail. We've always been a Disney family, and I'm fully embracing that side now that I'm back in Florida and an Annual Passholder. From eating and drinking our way through EPCOT, spending time with the animals in Animal Kingdom and taking time to go to the special events in Magic Kingdom during the holidays, the pass is well worth the cost and the 1.5 hour drive to get there. I'm going to share more detailed Disney posts in the future, but for now, here are a few fun pictures below!

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A Lenten Reflection

"But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

-Matthew 6:6

As I was praying before Ash Wednesday mass yesterday, before I even realized the contents of the Gospel reading, I was thinking about shame and why we sometimes hide our faith.  I've been reading a lot about vulnerability and whole-hearted living, a focus of the work of storyteller and researcher Brene Brown (more about her work later), I was thinking about shame in response to the things we keep private about our faith. There is a difference, I believe, between keeping our prayer, fasting and alms giving secret in order to be humble and not boastful, and keeping our faith private because we are scared of societies judgement.

Sometimes we hide our ashes, wipe them off so we don't get stranger stares at work or while walking across campus. I often fear the judgement of society or worry about what someone may say to me,  whether it be a mere question I just don't know the answer to or an accusation I have to refute and stand-up against. We all fear the unknown and the exposure of our souls when we wear a mark upon our head. Maybe we feel ashamed, shamed by the judgement of society, shamed by not knowing or understanding fully what we participate in or shame for standing out in a way that is countercultural to society. I know that sometimes I rather just not deal with the questions; I'd rather be left alone and remain anonymous.

Why is that? We do we (and I mean me) hid our keep concealed an area of our lives that we should graciously share with the world instead of hiding. Do we feel unguarded and vulnerable when we expose that side of ourselves because what society may judge or shame God rejoices in? How do we lean in to the vulnerability, wear our faith like a badge of honor instead of a scarlet A, regardless of how society views it.

I find it easier in the bubble, easier within the space of like-minded people like at my Catholic student center in undergraduate or in my Catholic school while teaching. It becomes more challenging as we step further into society, but it remain important, if not more than in our bubble, to bear our faith around those who may not share in it. How do we take more ownership of our faith and live our faith publically, not to be boastful as the Gospel speaks of, but to also not be ashamed or scared of what society thinks? This has been on my mind a lot recently, as I work in a field with many diverse settings and individuals. I found my self shying away from mentioning going to church on the weekend when someone asks how my weekend was, or shying away from controversial topics as to not stir the pot.

I'm challenging myself this Lent to not shy away or not hide my faith. I want to keep the Gospel reading in mind, to not be boastful and use my faith to fuel pride, but I also don't want to be ashamed to admit that I spent my evening in Bible study, and welcome any questions that may come. This scares me, because there is a potential for social isolation for not fitting into a norm, but I think it will help me to be a clearer and truer version of myself. I went to night mass, so I didn't have my ashes on for very long, but I'm going to try, and I encourage you as well, to keep your "ashes" visible this Lent.

Peace from Momma Mary

Happy January 1st! Today is both the Feast of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and also the 50th World Day of Peace, first celebrated by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1967.

Pope Francis reminds us that while we live in a broken world, "violence is not the cure for our broken world… " but that we still have peace and mercy as options available to us. And as the song states, it must start with us, it must start at home.

During the homily at mass tonight, the Monsignor connected peace to the celebration and reflection of Mary's role in the birth of Christ. In reviewing the Hail Mary, the priest pointed out the phrase "blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus". He pointed out that not only does the phrase encompass Mary's holiness but also her peace. While I had never heard of this interpretation, the priest went on to discuss how Mary is a vessel of peace, bringing into the world the ultimate Prince of Peace.  During the Gospel reading, the shepherds relay to Mary what the angels have told them about her Son. The scriptures state that Mary "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." She reacted peacefully, taking in what was told to her to heart and reflecting to understand the meaning. Her peaceful reaction should be a model for all of us, a way to take in what we hear and what we see and reflect on what God is saying to us or teaching us in the moment. Blessed is She presented a beautiful devotion today on the importance of reflective listening, and slowing down to hear wheat God is saying to us. Listening to God's words to our hearts will allow us to develop inner peace, furthermore allowing us to project that peace out into the world.

 For we must remember what St. Teresa of Calcutta told us, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

2016 in Review

2016 had its up and downs, for the world and for me. This was no doubt one of the more challenging years we have all faced, but in choosing to take each event as a lesson that we learned from,  we can enter 2017 with a spirit of growth, ready to move forward. 2016 brought a major life change for me. My mantra for 2016 was to "say yes" and to practice self care. While those still need to be worked on in the upcoming year, those two goals helped me to start being more conscious about what I ate, had me run my first race (just a 5K, but still!) and had me say yes to travel, friends, and most importantly, a goal I set for myself a long time ago that I never thought I'd achieve, going back to school to get my Ph.D. 2016 was quite the journey, and now that I'm settled in Florida, I'm looking forward to what 2017 has to offer! Here's a little snippet of my 2016.

January started and ended with travel! I headed to Missouri to visit a school and saw friends in St. Louis, then interviewed in Tampa and had an unexpected weekend adventure after getting stranded there during Winter Storm Jonas, visited South Carolina for a day and ended January in Nebraska.
College Friends at 4 Hands Brewery in St. Louis
View from the pier in Clearwater, Florida
February started on a sad note with the loss of my grandfather, but also included time with family, snow, Skype interviews and travels to Ohio for interviewing and visiting old friends.
Philly Ph.D.'s in Ohio
Favorite running stop view from the Art Museum Steps
March included a trip to NC for my brother's CD release show, celebrating my birthday in Philly, Florida and Charlotte, and finally visiting Gainesville and deciding on UF for my graduate school program!
Promoting Highway Rider with the Bestie!
Celebrating 26 with Family
Easter Sunday in N.C.
April saw my best friend Meghan visit Philly, the NCAA tournament and a Mother's Day tea with Grandmom
Philly Day with Meghan
Mother's Day Tea with the Queen (lookin' good at 97!) 
May was wedding month, traveling to North Carolina and New Orleans to celebrate the unions of two wonderful friends, along with some start of summer shenanigans in Philly!
Wedding Ready in N.C.

Beer Gardens and Best Friends

Surviving the heat in New Orleans with a cold Sno ball
June brought summer celebrations, nights on roof deck pools, the Color Run 5K, a bachelorette party and my last week working in a Philadelphia school.
Summer Nights on the roof with pups
Celebrating crossing the finish line for the Color Run 5K

Celebrating our favorite Bachelorette!
July was a big month! We kicked it off with the wedding weekend of my roommate combined with Fourth of July weekend, and filled in the rest of the days with happy hours, beer gardens, beach trips and my last day of work and move from Philly! I ended up the busy month with a trip to Nashville with my sister to visit my brother and take in Music City!
This photo says everything. What a wedding!

Summer Happy Hours are the best Happy Hours
Last Day of Work Lunch with the best ladies
August saw a girls trip to Asheville, a week in Hilton Head, a move to Florida and the start of graduate school, whew!
Sunday afternoons poolside

Grovepark Inn and Spa

Cruisin' Hilton Head
September was a month for settling in. I got used to my new apartment, new classes and new friends. I went to my first Gator football game and visited Florida's natural springs with my old college friend Christie. Oh, and I lived through my first Florida hurricane!
The Swamp
Ginnie Springs
October consisted mostly of graduate school work (midterm season), my second hurricane and also a girls trip to St. Augustine.
Anastasia Island State Park
November was very busy, with a trip to Tampa for the Florida Association of School Psychologist Conference, a trip to Orlando for the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival and then a trip home to N.C. for Thanksgiving (and Gilmore Girls!!)
First Year students at the FASP Conference
Food and Wine Fest Squad Goals
Thanksgiving Crew Selfie
December felt very short, as I headed back to Florida to wrap up graduate school work and celebrated the end of the first semester with my cohort, visited Disney again for the holiday celebrations, saw my friend Christie for the second time since I moved to Florida (!!!) and then headed home fro Christmas, including a visit to Philly and a homebody Christmas with my family.
Christmas in Philly
Christmas in Charlotte

Looking back, while 2016 was trying, it also brought a lot of amazing adventures, new experiences and quality time with family and friends. All I can ask for out of 2017 is a chance for more adventures with the people I love and a chance to continue to grow and follow God's plan!

Equip Me, Lord

In our Young Adults group tonight, we were reading Saturday's Gospel for the Feast of St. Andrew. The Gospel is from Matthew and it tell of the mission of the twelve, when after seeing a crowd filled with disease and illness, Jesus' 

"...Heart was moved with pity for them because they were trouble and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd" 
(Matthew 9:36)

After this, he summons the twelve disciplines and gives them authority to go out into ministry and drive out unclean spirits and cure illness. Somehow we got on the topic of giving and receiving, and when is it the right time to act. Some people were stressing the point of needing to fill your own cup before you can pour out to others, while others were discussing how through serving from our brokenness, we are not only giving to others but also giving to ourselves.

It got me thinking about my own giving, and not just in the sense of service work, but giving of myself, giving of Christ to others. I very often fall into the camp of feeling like I never know enough to share, or I never know what to share or how to share it correctly. I don't have it polished and perfected enough to put out in the world, either in person or through this blog, and so I don't do it. It’s a reflection of a struggle within myself, that I am hesitant to produce a product that is less than perfect and present it to the world. But someone in group tonight brought up the point that we don't learn from individuals who are perfect. Those are not the stories we are drawn to. We are drawn to those who share a common struggle, whom we can relate to, and whose lives we can learn from. I think that is something that makes the saints so powerful. They are incredibly holy men and women, and yet their stories are filled with hardship and brokenness. Look at St. Teresa of Calcutta. She went through such an extended period of darkness, of not feeling Christ's presence and of sometimes doubting, yet she is one of the most holy women of our time. Just because we don’t feel prepared or perfect doesn't mean we can't serve or share.

This whole thought process was making me think of this space, this blog. I write so infrequently one, due to time, but also due to the fact that I feel like I don’t have anything good enough to say. That no one will read it, so why bother. But I want to end that. I like to write, and I am trying to find my voice, though it isn't perfect. So why not share it all here, why not start giving of myself and my stories, because I have received so much through Christ and as the last line of the Gospel passage reflects, 

"Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give".

I don't feel prepared, but as I opened my Bible to write, a note card fell out with a quote I heard in college "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called," and I have faith that what I need to serve with be provided for by God.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other" 
-St. Teresa of Calcutta

As I sit here in Florida, my heart breaks for Charlotte, my city. My heartbreaks for those who feel the pain of injustice. My heartbreaks for those who are scared. My heartbreaks for those who don't know what the best solution is. My heart breaks for my beautiful city and for all of those cities and families and communities affected by injustices. 


The story of the Prodigal Son, which is this week's Gospel reading, is a well known story, a story about greed and humility, a story about mercy. I went to the young adult group (!) held by the Catholic Church on campus, and we reflected on this week's Gospel. While I kept quiet for the most part, it was so interesting to hear other's revelations about this famous story. 

A few thoughts that were shared tonight:

  • In the beginning, the younger son was very greedy. But not only that, he wanted what was "owed to him" in the form of his inheritance, something only received after the father would have passed. So not only does he say give me what I am "owed", he could be alluding to the fact that his father/family is now dead to him. This only heightens his distancing himself from his father in his belief that he can live life "his way".
    • What do we throw away to pursue what we want or think we need?
  • After squandering his inheritance on things he *thinks* will bring him fulfillment, he resorts to thinking"And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him". He is so desperate for something to fill him that he would eat pig slop.
    • Are we ever so desperate that we resort to "pig slop" to fill our needs and desires?
  • "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son”..... But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."
  • Through his sin, the son feels unworthy of the father's love or grace. But the father doesn't merely accept his son back into the family, no he "saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him". The father's love and mercy was not contingent on how the son behaved, it was unreserved and unwavering no matter what, and he gave him the best he had to offer.
  • The older son's jealously is a reminder of a few things:
    • One, God doesn't love us because we try to be perfect. We are able to strive towards holiness because God loves us unconditionally
    • Two, We are not the judges of who is deserving of what. We need to take a reality check and humble ourselves.
    • Three, does our pursuit of the "good" keep us from pursuing the "best" or the "greatest"? The older son was so concerned with playing by the roles, or doing what was good, that he forgot that the greater good was loving his brother and welcoming him home. 
I think that last point is an interesting one. How often do we concern ourselves with things that aren't bad, that may be good, but that keep us from the greatest good? It isn't bad to spend time with friends or family, but if that time spent interferes with our ability to seek God, is the good getting in the way of a greater good? I feel like this is a hard question to answer, especially for the person who feels like they are doing the right thing and "deserves" the splendors that the younger son receives. But we don't deserve anything because of what we do or don't do. We deserve the gifts of the Father because of who HE is, not because of who we are.

Luke 15:11-32

And He said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

New Beginings

The past few months have been quite eventful, as I made the move out of Philadelphia and began my southbound road trip throughout late July and August, finally making my way to Florida. I've been in grad school for just about three weeks now! I keep telling myself that I am going to keep up more regularly with blog posts now that I'm settled, but for now, I'll leave a few snapshots of my journey out of Philadelphia down to Florida!

Last day of work lunch at Sabrina's with the loveliest of co-workers

First leg of the journey, Sunsets in West Virginia down I-81

Quick Trip to Nashville to visit the brother! A few days experiencing the best sights, sounds and tastes of music city

Spent plenty of time hanging out with my favorite Charlotte girls!

 Another quick trip! This time, just the girls headed to Asheville to visit the Biltmore Estate and to get pampered at the fantastic Grove Park Inn and Spa

Got to spend plenty of time with this bestie and my favorite pup, Lasso! 
Brunchies, Breweries, Pool Days, Shopping, The Bachelorette, what more could I need!
Got to pick this one up from the airport on her way back from Alaska, so we could spend the day shopping for bridesmaid's dresses, drinking margaritas and watching the Bachelor!

Last stop before Florida was my favorite beach:
Hilton Head Island
Boat Cruise on the Bay
Finley spotting!

If people ever wonder where I got it from.....
South Beach Marina: Salty Dog Cafe

Last Night on the Beach

Next stop:

A little announcement...

A lot has happened since my last post 7 months ago. I took a little hiatus to focus on a very big undertaking in my life, which was applying to doctoral programs in psychology, a feat that consumed me since about Summer of 2015 until the past few weeks.

The undertaking that was applying to grad school is finally over. The long months of studying, researching programs, writing and rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting) statements of purpose,  flying all of the country for full-day interviews, waiting for acceptance offers, negotiating financial aid packets and agonizing over the choice have finally come to an end. I knew going into this process that it would take a lot of work, but I couldn't fathom the physical and mental endurance it would take. The application process tested me mentally, but ultimately allowed me the opportunity to take stock of what I have learned and channel that towards my future goals.

The actual interview process was something else entirely. I was incredibly blessed to receive more interview offers than expected, giving me the opportunity to explore new sections of the country and meet individuals who could push my aspirational career goals into tangible experiences. Through the interview process, I flew to states I'd never visited before, rented my first rental car, experienced my first "stranded in a new city" when Winter Storm Jonas cancelled all my flights one weekend, met many professionals in the field I plan to work in and surprised myself with how I handled being surrounded by people I've never met before. I was terrified by the idea of being thrown into a full day interview where I knew no one but the experience taught me a lot about how much I can handle and how important it is to face my anxieties head on.

The entire process was a tiresome, but incredibly enriching experience. Applying took all my free time in the fall. I had interviews for 6 straight weekends in January and February, 5 of which required me to fly out of town, and 4 additional Skype interviews. Right in the middle of this experience, my grandfather passed away, which jolted the formulating ideas of what I wanted next in an unpredicted way. I made my final visit to a potential school on my 26th birthday, made a decision a few days later and then promptly got sick for the next 2 weeks, knowing my body just needed to crash and reset. Its amazing how rejuvinating the release of stress and your body's healing of itself can be. I've had two weekends in the row of feeling back to myself, and its all finally starting to sink in. I'm making my bucket lists, counting down the days until my "lasts" begin here and the goodbyes start. Reflecting on this entire process, its crazy to think that the dream I once had of getting my Ph.D. one day is a concrete reality.

I'm absolutely thrilled to be heading off in August to pursue doctoral level studies in School Psychology at the University of Florida on an academic fellowship. A lot of praying, reflecting and being honest about what I really wanted for the next phase of my life led me to this decision, and I'm excited to be heading back to the South. The program, the people, the location in Florida (and proximity to beaches and Disney World) and the location relative to home all make me excited for the next chapter, and I can't thank enough all of the individuals who helped me and dealt with me this year. To the mentors who wrote my letters of recommendations and guided my decision making process, to my coworkers and roommates who bore with me as complained and shed tears of exhaustion, to my best friends and family who sacrificed their time to listen to my endless back and forth about programs and whom I am grateful for even though I wasn't as present to them as they were to me this year, I thank you. I know I didn't show it often, but all of your support helped me not only to survive this year, but showed me what sacrificial love could look like, and for that I am ever thankful, for I couldn't have made it to now without you.

Here's to the next chapter